The fun packed animated movie, Shrek, was the monster cinema hit of the summer of 2001. With a cheeky sense of humour, excellent vocal cast and a very post-modern spin on the world of fairytales, the film provided much to enjoy for both parents and children alike. Much of the same can be said for this colourful, invigorating stage adaptation which is packed with new songs from lyricist David Lindsay-Abaire and music arranged by Jeanine Tesori.
The stage show follows pretty much the exact same storyline as the film: Shrek is sent on a mission by Lord Farquaad to save Princess Fiona from a fearsome dragon and, in return, the fairytale creatures who have taken over his swamp will be evicted. Dean Chisnall brings a suitably sturdy presence as Shrek, both awkward and grumpy, until he falls for Princess Fiona and discovers his sweet side. Bronte Barre is delightfully feisty as the princess and her song with Chisnall, filled with burps and farts, has the audience in an uproar. Idriss Kargbo slightly overplays the sass of tagalong sidekick Donkey and in so doing loses some of the warmth that made the Eddie Murphy character so loveable in the original. The budding friendship between Shrek and Donkey seems to be one key element that hasn’t transferred as well in this production. However, the development of the character of Lord Farquaad is the show’s surprise highlight (or should that be lowlight?) Gerard Carey absolutely nails the roll of the short villain and he gives a deliciously OTT performance that elevates the production every time he is on the stage. Using his unique costume to full advantage and milking every moment it’s a masterclass in panto style villainy.
The entire ensemble is excellent, vocals and choreography are as classy and fun as expected. Some songs feel like filler, however, and the closing song, I’m a Believer, is so good that it hints at what some of the musical numbers should have been aiming for beforehand. Thankfully, visually the show is outstanding with special merit to the costumes and the excellent puppetry work creating the dragon. Overall, it’s a fantastic family show which will have kids of all ages entertained, and as an added bonus, keep alert for numerous amusing musical parodies peppered throughout.